Multiple US Agencies to Examine Possible Spy Balloon Found off Alaska Coast
Multiple US Agencies to Examine Possible Spy Balloon Found off Alaska Coast

By Caden Pearson

Multiple U.S. agencies will analyze the debris of an unidentified high-altitude balloon recovered in waters near Alaska, according to the Pentagon.

Last week, fishermen found the debris off the coast of Alaska after it flew over the western continental United States.

Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said defense officials wouldn’t yet characterize it as a spy balloon but that a number of agencies are looking into it.

“The debris is currently at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and has been transferred to a DoD facility,” Ms. Gough said in an emailed statement, using the acronym for the Department of Defense.

“We do not know why the balloon was in the waters off the coast of Alaska, nor are we going to characterize it at this time, but hope to learn more about the balloon’s origin and purpose after further analysis of the material, which will be conducted by multiple agencies.”

The Pentagon’s confirmation on March 6 marked the first public acknowledgment that the discovered object was indeed a balloon.

Fishermen came across the debris on March 1. Upon finding the suspicious object, they alerted law enforcement, providing photos that raised concern among local officials, leading them to involve the FBI.

At the time of discovery, the nature of the object was unclear, and officials were uncertain if it was a balloon at all. Nevertheless, the FBI determined that its resemblance to a surveillance balloon owned by a foreign government was significant enough to justify further investigation.

Last month, the U.S. military monitored the balloon’s trajectory across the western United States.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is responsible for overseeing North American airspace in collaboration with Canada, assessed that the object didn’t pose an immediate threat.

A NORAD spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that it and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) detected the small balloon flying at an altitude that varied between 43,000 and 45,000 feet.

NORAD fighters intercepted the balloon over Utah and determined that it lacked maneuverability, and posed no threat to national security. The FAA also confirmed that it didn’t pose a hazard to flight safety.

The incident comes about one year after a significant diplomatic incident involving a Chinese spy balloon that was allowed to traverse the continental United States. It passed over three sites linked to the nation’s nuclear program before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

The previous espionage-linked balloon, observers say, is part of a broader campaign orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which governs China as a single-party state.

Unlike the balloon recovered near Alaska, the CCP spy balloon shot down on the U.S. East Coast possessed maneuverability and housed an extensive array of electronics and power sources.

According to U.S. officials, the CCP-linked balloon fleet has undertaken at least two dozen missions spanning five continents, including in Latin America, in recent years.

The Pentagon acknowledged an “awareness gap” that allowed three other Chinese spy balloons to traverse U.S. territory during the Trump administration. That led the United States to revise its protocols for identifying and tracking similar objects on radar.

In the past two months, Taiwan has accused Beijing of sending multiple balloons through its airspace. Eight Chinese balloons crossed the Taiwan Strait in the 24 hours leading to the morning of Feb. 11, as reported by Taiwan’s defense ministry.

While China has been sending balloons near the self-governed island for years, Taiwan didn’t begin including data on Chinese balloon sightings in its daily reports on the CCP’s military activities until December 2023.

The CCP asserts territorial claims over Taiwan, vowing to use force if necessary to achieve “reunification” with democratically governed Taiwan despite the CCP never having ruled the island.

Dorothy Li and Andrew Thornebrooke contributed to this report.

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